Here’s what I have learned in the last year: casual is okay. Mellow is okay.
My first convention was 2010’s Readercon (July). Then came Boskone in February 2011. Worldcon was my third. First, I recommend the experience. Caveat: you have to be into the genre (duh!) and you might want to spend time reviewing the program events before walking in the door to make sure you can screen for interesting topics & panels that you want to listen to.
Walking through the airport on arrival and seeing all of the banners up (these happened to be in the baggage claim area) was quite cool, and different from past airport adventures. Since I was going to be presenting (my first “professional” type talk, no less), I felt a little more excitement than if I were just going. There were butterflies, and a sense of pride, and a sense of relief at having finally made it (after being up since about 4am EST for flights… more on that later).
The space itself (in the convention center) was huge – the space used for the dealer’s room was almost big enough to match the entirety of the space for Readercon. Seats for one hundred people in a room was common, with twice that for some of the larger panel spaces. The Con Suite was set up across a sky bridge in the Atlantis, while the Hugo’s and Writer’s Workshops were being held up the street at the Peppermill (both facilities were considered “Host Hotels” with room blocks for the convention).
Walking through the halls, it was nice to be able to look around and mentally (or, to MC if she asked) identify speakers from some past conventions, or to sit in on a panel and be able to put a face with a name I’ve seen on a book cover.
Another thing I’ve picked up from conventions is that I am more likely to follow somebody (read their blogs, seek out their books, etc.) if I’ve been able to get a sense of them as a person. To me, just being mellow and honest to who you are is the ultimate way for a writer to pimp their work. It’s an association and reference thing, I guess.
As for the hotels. Not quite like Vegas.
The Atlantis was okay, and spatially felt a little better than the Peppermill if you had to walk through the casino (which you had to, if you wanted to look for the restaurants). Atlantis felt like was an old school Vegas hotel, or one that is situated off the strip. The Peppermill casino had too much neon and too many mirrors, which made it easy to get turned around and side-tracked (a far cry from the spacious layout of several casino floors along the Vegas strip).
But the room… oh, the hotel room. We were in the Tuscan Tower of the Peppermill, and (to borrow from Ferris Bueller, “It’s so choice. If you have the means…”) I would suggest it. The room was easily comparable to what amenities we’ve experienced in Vegas: double sink, separate water closet, dual head shower. After a long day of walking around the convention center, it was nice to return to the room, sink into the king bed, and
recover sleep. The restaurants were generally great as well (we recommend the Monte Cristo if you eat at Biscotti’s in the Peppermill; the Steak House in Atlantis was worth the little bit extra, too), but we were both severely underwhelmed by the Breakfast Buffet at the Peppermill.
Would I go back? To Worldcon? Definitely. I hear they do it yearly and can definitely see myself at them in the future. To Reno? Maybe, but probably only for other conferences and professional gigs. I’m not knocking Reno, the scenic views were awesome to wake up to, but I didn’t get the same kind of “I want to go explore” vibe that I’ve gotten from places like Boston or “I want to see shows” like in New York and Las Vegas.
Which leads me to some of my highlights: Attending the Hugos. Seeing the presentation of Whatnot but Other Hand Productions. Actually meeting Scalzi (side story to follow), and being able to listen to those that have already walked the publishing path, which further helps to remove the veil of mystery and awe that’s surrounded writer’s since I was kid.
That is all (for now).